Cuba Allows Citizens to Travel Abroad

October 16, 2012 | Print Print |

Cubans have complained for decades of their inability to travel abroad without a costly and often difficult to obtain exit permit. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Cuba will allow citizens to travel abroad without first obtaining exit permits, a key and long awaited reform of President Raul Castro reported DPA news.

Beginning January 14, 2013, Cubans will be able to leave the island with only a valid passport and visa from the country of destination, the Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.

The long-awaited immigration reform eliminates the presentation of a letter of invitation and the processing of the “carte blanche” (exist permit) needed by Cubans for decades to leave the country. At the same time, the Cuban government announced it would take unspecified steps to “preserve the human capital created by the revolution.”

The reform also extends permission to stay abroad from 11 to 24 months. Cubans who already have exit visas in their passports “may leave the country without a new process,” the statement said.

Current immigration laws also prohibit Cubans uninterrupted stay abroad under penalty of losing their property on the island and the possibility of return.

In mid-2011, Raul Castro’s government announced immigration reform as part of a series of profound economic adjustments to “update” the Cuban model with market elements.

The new immigration measures “are inscribed in the irreversible process of the normalization of relations of emigrants with their country,” said an editorial in the official Granma newspaper,
published in its online version.

The travel ban has caused serious crisis with US immigration over the last half century, such as the wave of “balseros” (rafters) in 1994, and the Mariel exodus in 1980 (when the Cuban government allowed exiles to temporarily boat-lift their relatives from that port).

While distributed in many countries, the vast majority of Cuban emigrants live in the United States.

Havana accuses Washington of encouraging illegal immigration with its admission policy for Cuban refugees (the Cuban Adjustment Act and its so-called “dry foot, wet foot” policy), which automatically give Cubans who reach US territory a fast-track to permanent residency.

“The updated immigration policy takes into account the state’s right to defend itself against the interventionist and subversive plans of the US government and its allies,” the Cuban government said in its statement today.

“For this reason, measures shall be maintained to preserve the human capital created by the revolution, in the face from talent theft by the powerful nations,” it added.

It’s estimated that Havana will continue to impose restrictions on the outflow of professionals such as doctors to prevent a mass exodus. It also remains unclear whether the measure will allow temporary travel abroad for political dissidents like blogger Yoani Sanchez, who has been denied exit visas on 20 occasions

See the immigration reform text in the Gaceta Oficial (in Spanish).

 


What's your opinion?

  • Moses

    Interesting comment: “For this reason, measures shall be maintained to preserve the human capital created by the revolution, in the face from talent theft by the powerful nations,” How does one ¨steal¨ a free man? Entice yes, but steal? Are these doctors and other professionals considered property such that they are subject to being stolen? For goodness sakes, who wouldn´t choose a better life for themselves and their family? I certainly understand the lost investment in a professional when they decide to work elsewhere. As a former partner in a software firm, we suffered often when someone whom we had sent to training and invested thousands of dollars would choose to leave to work for a competitor. These are economic risks that can be mitigated by paying higher salaries or offeriing other benefits. My best friend is a Cuban surgeon who worked for many years saving lives at Calixto Garcia hospital in Havana. He never earned enough to feed his family. He was always supplementing his state pay with side jobs and even then it was not enough. He lives and works in the US now. He was not stolen. He was offered a better life and he took it.

    • Griffin

      “How does one ¨steal¨ a free man? ”

      Excellent question, Moses. I am a free man living in Canada. Somehow I have managed to avoid being stolen by allure of American capitalism or the Cuban socialist utopia.

      “The reform also extends permission to stay abroad from 11 to 24 months.” So the regime will allow their slaves a longer leash. No doubt there are other restrictions too, not mentioned in the news release.

      • Lawrence W

        If you are indeed Canadian, you know one of the reasons why 35 million Canadians “somehow … have managed to avoid being stolen by allure of American capitalism.” We don’t have an automatic right to live and work there, unlike the special status that is granted to Cubans, obviously to encourage them to leave Cuba.

        You can dither over words, but ‘stealing’ seems to be a fairly accurate word to use under the circumstances.

        This article contains, “Havana accuses Washington of encouraging illegal immigration with its admission policy for Cuban refugees (the Cuban Adjustment Act and its so-called “dry foot, wet foot” policy), which automatically give Cubans who reach US territory a fast-track to permanent residency.”

        We’ve just had a recent example of how the ‘theft’ affects Canada as well. If you are Canadian you would know that many immigrants to Canada come here because they aren’t allowed entry into the US due to its strict immigration laws. So the quick exodus of the three soccer players who defected in Canada and fled to the US border in a matter of hours graphically illustrates the ‘stealing’ process.

        The Toronto Star contained, “Had they stayed in Canada, those players would have to go through the same process as every other refugee claimant, regardless of their native country. But as soon as a Cuban sets foot on American soil, they qualify for refugee status in the United States.”

        And if you are Canadian, you should be aware of the ramifications of living abroad, outside of Canada, for an extended period of time. There are residency issues involving taxes, health care and other legal issues. Once, when I returned to Canada after being overseas for more than two years, upon return, the immigration official who looked at my passport at the airport and saw how long I was away, exclaimed, “legally, you are no longer a Canadian!”

        ‘Griffin’, I have never encountered a Canadian as ignorant of Canada as you. It is very common, however, to find Americans who know very little about my country.

        • Griffin

          Lawrence,

          Are you saying if the US granted automatic residency to Canadians, that millions of Canadians would move to the US? I don’t think so. Some do immigrate to the US, just as some Americans emigrate to Canada.

          I really don’t care whether you believe I am Canadian, but I do find it odd that you insist I am not. I was born and raised in Toronto, where I live today. I have never lived outside Canada, but I have travelled to the US, Cuba & Europe. I have met a Cuban musician who resides in Toronto for extended periods but must return to Cuba regularly to preserve his legal status. If he stayed too long in Canada, he would be in trouble with the Cuban authorities. He could easily slip into the US if he chose to, but he has decided not to leave Cuba permanently.

          I have no idea why the immigration official told you that, as this website for Canadian expats makes clear,

          “As a Canadian citizen, you are free to travel and live where you choose. Relocating to another country, even on a permanent basis, does not affect your status as a Canadian citizen. You may remain a Canadian citizen as long as you wish.”

          http://www.expatinfodesk.com/expat-guide/nationality-specific-information/canadian/citizenship-nationality-rights/

          All that aside, on the subject of the Cuban gov’t eliminating the Exit Visa, I do think it is a good idea. It will help normalize Cuba’s relationship with the rest of the world. It would be appropriate if the US responded by allowing freer travel to Cuba by Americans. But as Moses points out, the issue of Alan Gross must be properly resolved first.

          • Lawrence W

            To stay on topic, I wrote what I experienced when I returned to Canada after living abroad for more than 2 years. This was in response to you characterising Cubans as “slaves” on a “longer leash” in response to the news that the Cuban government extended permission to stay abroad from 11 to 24 months.

            Instead of greeting a relaxation of a government restriction as good news as everyone save you and ;’Moses’ have done in comments, instead you characterise Cubans as slaves. So what are we looking at here? Not someone who cares about Cubans, it seems, but someone who is focused on bringing down its government.

            The only people I know who are focused on bringing down Cuba’s government are Americans. There are certainly some American wannabes in Canada, but most leave to live in the US. Neither of us know how many Canadians would go to live in the US for a period of time if they could automatically work there as it’s never been a possibility as Cubans can in the US.

            British immigration law until the 1970s allowed Australians and New Zealanders to live and work in Britain as British citizens and many emigrated, a phenomenon referred to as “re-colonisation”.

            As I wrote to ‘Moses’, decisions to emigrate are made on the basis of a perception of a better life overseas and the ease with which it can be attained. In the case of Cuban emigration to the US, both are strongly affected by American propaganda – presenting the US as superior to Cuba as you and ‘Moses’ incessantly do, characterising Cubans as slaves on a leash, for example. US laws look after making it easy to emigrate.

            The point of relating my personal experience was to put into perspective your draconian picture of Cuban emigration regulations. From the perspective of a customs and emigration officer at Pearson International Airport, my Canadian passport meant nothing to him. His primary focus was to determine how long I was away to assess what my duty-free allowance was.

            Governments have a variety of regulations they put in place to suit their agendas. Currently Canadian government agencies are scrutinising Canadians who live overseas for more than six months. We lose our health insurance coverage if so and need to go through a re qualification period to get it back.

            Cuban regulations may appear more radical but Cuba’s position is more radical than that of any country I’ve lived in. As the article notes, “Washington is encouraging illegal immigration with its admission policy for Cuban refugees” that “automatically give Cubans who reach US territory a fast-track to permanent residency. The updated immigration policy takes into account the state’s right to defend itself against the interventionist and subversive plans of the US government.”

            As for Alan Gross, you and ‘Moses’, the prime US propagandists on HT, claim “the issue of Alan Gross must be properly resolved first” before Washington will stop its exceptional immigration policy. Gross was arrested a year and a half ago, the Cuba Adjustment Act has been around for more than 45 years. And if Gross was released? Another ‘excuse’ would obviously be found.

            If you want Gross released, release the Cuban 5 and he’s yours. Too bad you didn’t have the same concern for Omar Khadr when he was held by Americans at Guantanamo. He’s Canadian, you know, but you are more concerned about an American it seems.

            As for you not being Canadian, as long as you embrace American policy, hook, line and sinker, I will use the rule, “if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Everything you have written about Canada is available through googling. The last time this subject came up, I pointed out a gaffe you made claiming to be Canadian. You never responded.

          • Griffin

            Omar Khadr was born in Canada, but his parents took him to Afghanistan to protect him from our wicked Canadian culture. Now that he has been returned to Canada, Khadr should be tried for treason. I have no sympathy for him or his sick family.

            I have no idea what “gaffe” you allege, nor do I care. The fact you believe all Canadians share your leftist admiration of Cuba speaks volumes of your rigid mentality.

            If you read my comments, you would see that I did indeed state the new travel laws were an improvement. However, I don’t see it changing much. As for referring to Cubans as slaves of the regime, that is a characterization I have heard from many Cubans, inside and outside of Cuba. Do you seriously think Cuban’s appreciate a clueless Canadian such as yourself defending and praising their jailers?

            The day will come soon when the Cuban people can at least speak freely about their government. When that happens you won’t be best pleased what they have to say about Leftist collaborators like you.

    • Luis

      If you truly are what you say you are, you should’ve known that the phenomenon addressed in that line is commonly known in English as “Brain Drain”, where in Portuguese and Spanish (the original language of the article) is called “Roubo de Cérebros”/”Robo de Cerebros”, literally “Brain Theft”.

      Instead of celebrating good news you focus on a mistranslated line. Pitiful.

      Ah, and the economic system you advocate for treats EVERYONE as merchandise: work-force is a commodity. Study, study.

    • Lawrence W

      ‘Luis’ has already effectively made the point but I’ll second it. Instead of applauding the good news in this report, you continue to be Cuba’s ‘agony aunt’. The announcement seems to be bad news for you. It certainly is for the US government that has subjected Cuba “to a war of attrition since the beginning” as Elio Delgado Legon recently wrote in HT.

      “The aim of this has been to subject the Cuban people to hunger, disease and despair so that they overthrow the government. Those aren’t my words, they were written in a memo from a senior official of the US government. It is difficult to imagine anything more cruel and merciless.”

      As a citizen of that government, everything you wrote appears to be ‘damage control’ by deflection – attempting to turn attention away from the good news to other matters. Let’s take a closer look at those ‘matters’.

      Your word games seem more suitable to the legal profession than the computer profession, attempting to morph “talent theft” into “steal a free man”. “Luis’ has pointed out the translation issues but even accepting “talent theft” as a valid translation, spinning it to mean Cubans are somehow chattel “property” is sophistry at best, deceit at worst.

      You ask, “For goodness sakes, who wouldn’t choose a better life for themselves and their family?” These choices, of course, are made on the perception of a better life overseas and the ease with which it can be attained.

      Both are strongly affected by American propaganda and US laws – the Cuban Adjustment Act. Both the propaganda and the laws are intended to encourage Cubans to leave their country. At the same time, the US is deporting immigrants from other countries at record levels. It’s clear what the US is doing – ‘thieving’ people for political motives.

      You write, “As a former partner in a software firm, we suffered often when someone whom we had sent to training and invested thousands of dollars would choose to leave to work for a competitor. These are economic risks that can be mitigated by paying higher salaries or offering other benefits.”

      This indicates you have not worked for a very long time – since the 80′s I would guess. The practices you describe disappeared from the workplace long ago. It’s useful to note why. Businesses in the English-speaking world that I’m familiar with decided that there was another way to “mitigate” the “economic risks” you refer to.

      You are correct, previously they “mitigated by paying higher salaries or offering other benefits like investing “thousands of dollars” in training. Indicative of the declining quality of life in capitalist workplaces, that has all changed.

      The business model shifted radically from viewing employees as a valuable resource to be encouraged to stay with a company as long as possible, offering them promotions, attractive remuneration, benefits and training as enticements, to one where rapid turnover was encouraged.

      Before, if a potential employee was at their last job for less than two years, they were marked down as being someone who was likely to quickly move on. Now, if you are at the same job for more than two years, you are marked down as being potential dead wood. Employees are expected to pay for their own training and benefits are cut whenever possible.

      Valuable employees are paid high salaries as long as they are considered to be valuable, then cut loose by various means when they are no longer wanted.

      That’s what the workplace is currently like in the English-speaking countries I am familiar with. It’s all to employers’ advantage at the expense of workers. ‘Luis’ described it accurately: “the economic system you advocate for treats EVERYONE as merchandise: work-force is a commodity.”

      The new model is both a union-busting and a power-busting strategy, where “flattening the hierarchy” meant getting rid of experienced, longer-term employees – the middle managers. Experienced employees form unions and middle managers are too ‘stroppy’ for upper managers, and too expensive.

      The excuse doctors use here for making high salaries is they have to pay for their education. In Cuba, they don’t have to. Why should they make more money than other Cubans? Because they are somehow more valuable than other workers? Unlike here, Cubans train enough doctors to go around so they are not a rare breed, deserving of special status.

      Should we think well of your Cuban surgeon best friend who chose to stop “saving lives at Calixto Garcia hospital in Havana” when he “was offered a better life and he took it”? I personally know different kinds of people who I call friends than you do, but that won’t come as a surprise to anyone, I think.

      It all boils down to the working class vs the elite class. And why agony aunts wail when something good comes out of Cuba.

  • karen lee

    The headline is misleading. It implies that no Cubans were allowed to travel before, which of course is absurd. What Cuba has done is to make it easier to travel abroad, less bureaucratic, less expensive (on the Cuban end). But other countries must still grant visas to Cubans wishing to visit them, and until now, the admitted US policy has been to routinely deny 90% of those seeking such visas Part of the overall policy of trying to make life in Cuba so difficult that people will opt to change their form of government. And of course, Cubans must still be able to afford to travel abroad, which means having someone pay their way or being “independently wealthy” by renting rooms, running a paladar, getting tourism tips….. But still, as John McAuliff points out in his article, the Cuban government is now much more willing to let its citizens visit the US than the US government is to lets its citizens visit Cuba.

    • Lawrence W

      Hi ‘Karen’, can you supply a link to the John McAuliff article you refer to? Thanks, ‘L’

  • Luis

    This is fantastic news! Finally stupid and obsolete immigration laws go down. Now it’s time for the Cuban Adjustment Act to fall, too. But I’m not naive: this will only happen when the rich Miami-based Cubans stop behaving like children and admit they lost the ’59 Revolution.

  • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

    Yes, it’s good news; but not great news. Great news would be for Cubans to have good jobs with adequate pay to support themselves and raise families.

    This of course would require a cooperative, state co-ownership form of socialism based on private productive property rights and a strategic alliance of the proletariat with a vibrant and respected small bourgeoisie.

    Perhaps I’m just dreaming, but am still hoping for the best. Good luck to socialist Cuba.

  • CubaGirl

    Things are changing, slowly but surely…and as for the whole Alan Gross issue, why should they release him? He broke the LAWS of the country in which he was in…so he will spend many years behind bars as the criminal he is.

  • Milagros

    Excellente Pero mi casa Cuba es siempre mi corazon